Dick ”Butch” Behrens 1942

Military Bio:

My 'military career' began in 1939 when I joined 'F' Company of the 109 Combat Engineers, National Guard unit of the 34th Division at Sturgis, S.Dak. In 1941 we were called up and were sent to Camp Claiborne for one year of training, which was extended a lot. We then went to North Ireland, Scotland and then made the landing near Algiers in North Africa. By then 'F' Company had become 'C' Company and we moved up into Tunisia with the 168th Infantry Regiment. We were to meet the Germans who were retreating westward in the face of the British Army out of Libia thingsj went badly for the Americans: the Germans overwhelmed us at Faid Pass, taking a thousand or so of us captives; the whole 1st Platoon of 'C' company.

The Faid Pass battle started on February 14th and we were captured several days later. We were rounded up somewhere east of Sidi bu Zid and marched to Sfax then wound up in Tunis and were flown across the Med to Naples and held for several days in a compound at Capua. We went by train over Brenner Pass to Stalag 7V11A at Mooseburg where we were processed for two or three weeks. We got back on the 60's and 8's and went north to 111B at Firstenburg (Furstenburg) which is south of the other Frankfurt on the Oder River. I think we got there in March. 111B had been a holding place for Russian prisoners whom the Germans brutalized and the same personnel were pretty rough on us until they were replaced by more humane types. Not that these guard were nice people, only a little less brutal. They hit us around a lot at first, but there is nothing like a 'butt stroke' or two to make us realize we were no longer in control.

The next three months were not good. Then we began to receive Red Cross parcels, two men to a parcel when times were good, but there were some long time between parcels.. A 'parcel' had a can of Spam or corned beef, a pound can of powdered milk, 1 pound off butter, soap, 6 oz of liver pate', crackers, sugar, salt and instant coffee. Also there would be five packs of cigarettes. They were as good as money for trading with the guards and French prisoners, who were nearly free around the camp.

We were at 111B until January of 1945. We had to hit the road because the Russians were moving west. We did a midwinter march to 111A, this was not a fun trip, thousands of Germans were doing the same thing. In six or seven days we arrived in 111A which was a hellhole. Three thousand men or so, and two water faucets. The Russians 'liberated' us and many of us walked to the Elbe River and the American lines. On the way my kidneys began to fail but I was fortunate to get to a hospital in France before I collapsed. I spent a month there, came home on a hospital ship and spent a year at Walter Reed Hospital. I left there fully recovered. A very happy ending.

My Message to Future Generations: To Come!

Dick ”Butch” Behrens 1942

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